Hamnet Eastern Cape Mountain Club exercise – report back

20161105_104608Hamnet Eastern Cape was approached by the Search and Rescue (S&R) team of the Eastern Cape branch of the Mountain Club of South Africa to assist in a training exercise by providing a communications network over the Groendal nature reserve outside Port Elizabeth.

The event took place on 5 and 6 November, with the Eastern Cape Hamnet team only being needed for the Saturday.

The idea of the exercise was to get various role players together to get on a first name basis with each other and to establish needs and resources. Hamnet Eastern Cape, along with some members of PEARS, provided radio communications over the entire Groendal nature reserve – linking teams on the ground to the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) and the other teams – wherever they were deployed.

20161105_095431This was achieved by deploying two cross-band repeaters – VHF simplex to the teams on the ground and linked by UHF. This gave the mountain club the ability to talk directly to teams involved in the exercise – wherever they were deployed.

The day started with everyone meeting at the Rooikraans picnic area in Groendal at 07h30. As soon as the helicopters (2 BK helicopters) arrived, the Hamnet members going to deploy the repeater network were loaded and deployed. Within minutes of us being dropped off at the various sites we had comms up and signal checks done. Signal reports suggested we had the perfect spots for the repeaters.

20161105_164634While this was happening, a JOC was setup – giving the mountain club maps of the area and radio hams to keep everyone in touch.  four hams operated the radios in the JOC relaying messages to and from the event organisers/JOC control.

After some additional training (how to enter and disembark a helicopter) the teams were ready to be deployed to various sections of the reserve. The exercise involved the teams (or sticks as they are called in S&R lingo) being dropped off, establishing their coordinates and sending in reports – everything from location to weather and visibility. Some basic drills for spotting were done and then it was getting a helicopter to pick them up and return to base.  The teams had to identify a safe Landing Zone (LZ) set up a windsock of sorts and navigate the pilot to their location using any and all means at their disposal.20161105_104450

As mentioned, radio hams  assisted in the JOC – relaying messages on behalf of the organizers. This gave a good sense of radio procedure to the teams who soon followed suit. Tactical call signs were used where appropriate and members within the teams rotated the responsibility of reporting in on the radio.

The two pilots (Havoc and Sandman) fitted in as if they were part of the team for ages! JOC and the teams can only say a huge THANK YOU to the pilots (and their engineers) for a totally top class performance.

20161105_095453Late in the afternoon, the exercise was suspended and the repeater network removed. The hams then “stood down” – meaning that we packed up and went home.



The mountain club and air force were to continue on the Sunday with some drills – hoists and more advanced helicopter work.

Talking purely from a radio perspective the communications network established was adequate, deployed in minimal time and stood up to the task at hand. It should also be said that as a team we were stretched in terms of equipment and it would be great to have a few more “repeater-in-a-box” solutions. If the area had been bigger, we might not have been able to cover it adequately.

This event was also registered as a training exercise with SARL and we believe it was hugely beneficial.

REPORT 6 November 2016

A new disaster management command vehicle was unveiled in Durban on Tuesday, which the eThekwini Municipality hopes will assist authorities during emergencies.

Mayor Zandile Gumede said “As a municipality, we felt it necessary to acquire this state-of-the-art vehicle, as it will be instrumental in helping us better to manage and prevent emergency incidents from escalating into disasters.

“We will also use it as a joint operations centre when events are hosted in areas where there are no CCTV cameras. As we work towards our vision of being Africa’s most caring and liveable city by 2030, we continue to look for new and innovative ways of ensuring that we deliver high-quality services to our communities”.

Inside the vehicle is a driver console with cameras, a mini-boardroom with telephones and DSTV, a WiFi connection, a mini-kitchen, a lighting mask, CCTV equipment, a server room and an operational centre with 12 consoles. It can accommodate six people who will be able to give strategic direction on how any emergency incident should be handled, while monitoring it.

The mayor said the eThekwini Municipality was the first municipality in KwaZulu-Natal to own such a vehicle, which could also be used in the fight against crime.

“A lot has been done to improve the lives of our people. However, we will still do more. In the near future we plan to procure other, smaller mobile units that will help us to manage and monitor emergency incidents and other ­activities effectively and speedily”, she said. The command vehicle has been planned in a way that it will be able to have access to, and the capability of being stationed in, any area of eThekwini, including rural areas.

Keith Howes, ZS5WFD, of HAMNET KZN, says he will be arranging a visit for HAMNET KZN members, once the final technical installations have been completed and will then be able to provide better photographs. Thank you Keith.

The elderly have a greater risk of developing dementia after a natural disaster, researchers say.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the loss of property and loved ones in the aftermath of a natural disaster increases the symptoms of dementia in the elderly.

The study looked at the elderly victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami and found that people 65 and older who lost their homes were much more likely to experience increased symptoms of dementia than those who were able to remain in their homes.

“In the aftermath of disasters, most people focus on mental health issues like PTSD,” said Dr Hiroyuki Hikichi, a research fellow at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study, according to Reuters. “But our study tends to suggest that cognitive decline is just as important. It appears that relocation to a temporary shelter after a disaster may have the unintended effect of separating people not just from their homes but from their neighbours — and both may speed up cognitive decline among vulnerable people.”

The earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011 generated a devastating tsunami that was observed all over the Pacific and caused tremendous devastation locally, including an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The researchers, working alongside colleagues in Japan, used the data of 3,594 elderly residents in the coastal city of Iwanuma, which is approximately 70 km from the epicentre of the earthquake.

According to the study, the initial survey examined the subjects’ health status, health behaviours, and the prevalent symptoms of dementia. At the time, 4.1 percent of the participants assessed had symptoms of dementia.

A second survey was conducted by the Harvard team on the same participants two-and-a-half years after the tsunami. The survey revealed that, out of 3,566 survivors of the tsunami disaster, 38 percent reported that they lost relatives and/or friends and 58.9 percent reported property damage.

The second survey revealed that the number of participants suffering symptoms of dementia had jumped to 11.5 percent and the prevalence of hypertension had risen to 57.2 percent. The prevalence of stroke after the tsunami nearly doubled, from 1.5 percent to 2.9 percent. I therefore appeal to all rescuers in HAMNET to take into account the effect trauma to an older person might have, in terms of cognitive shock.

Although there has been a surfeit of political news in South Africa this week, there has been a absolute drought in news of rainfall and an improvement in the state of our dams. With Level 3 water restrictions imposed in the City of Cape Town as of November, I thought it appropriate to include a summary of the status of dams in the provinces each week, at least until the rainfall takes some sort of an upswing.

In only two of the provinces in our country are average dam levels even vaguely similar to last year’s figures at this time, and they are the North West Province, with levels now of 55% full, compared with 54% full last year, and Gauteng, at 79% full, compared to 83% last year.

For the rest, the Eastern Cape dams are at 62%, compared to 78% last year, the Free State 50%, compared to 67%, KZN 42%, compared to 58%, Limpopo 45%, compared to 71%, Mpumalanga 46%, compared to 70%, the Northern Cape 56% compared to 79%, and the Western Cape 61%, compared to 69% this time last year.

Even Lesotho’s dams are only 37% full, compared to 56% this time last year. Please note these are last week’s measurements, and may have changed slightly by now. I’ll bring you this week’s values next Sunday. All very worrying, and I must strongly urge all of us to think twice before we open a tap without trying to catch the outflow for another use afterwards.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.